09/03/2020, 08.24
PAKISTAN
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Legislation is urgently needed to curb religious conversions and forced marriages

by Shafique Khokhar

The Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation demand authorities intervene following police failure to act on the kidnapping of Saneha Kinza, a 15-year-old Christian girl.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - The police authorities are failing to intervene for the return of Saneha Kinza, the 15-year-old girl, kidnapped on July 22 by a married Muslim father of four, Saeed Amanat.

With the help of the Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (AWAM), the abductee's family was able to submit First Information Report (FIR) # 826/20 in section 365-B of the Penal Code of Pakistan (PPC) at the Jhang Bazar Faisalabad police on August 19, 2020.

The family fears forced religious conversion and the marriage of their daughter. But Mazhar Iqbal, Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI), Jhang Bazar Faisala Police Station did not take any steps to return the girl.

The family says it is a forced religious conversion and marriage as the girl is a minor and a 10th grade student at the government girls' upper secondary school, Shadab Colony Jhang Road, Faisalabad, 2km from her home.

Pastor Morris Masih, Saneha's father, said the age is not appropriate for making decisions about religious conversion and getting married. He also complains that the fact that the delay in the intervention of the police was intended to provide ample time for the kidnappers to prove that their request for conversion and marriage is fair.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Saneha's mother, Rukhsana Bibi, said: "Saneha is lovely to everyone." us. We count on the police, but their partial gestures have disappointed us ", he added.

Saneha's father, Morris Masih, said: "The delay in recovery of my daughter is exacerbating our concerns, but it doesn't matter to the police. Though the police lodged the FIR on August 19, 2020, the department has not taken any measures to recover our daughter. In crucial hours, we are waiting for the divine help to recover our daughter as the state institutions and authorities are not cooperating with us."

High Court lawyer, Sajid Husnain Gillani, said he wanted to ask the authorities: “to arrest the people named in FIR no. 826/20, adopting punitive measures against the authors, presenting the kidnapped before the court and arresting the authors and proceeding as per law ".

A fellow High Court lawyer Rabia Tabbasum, commented: “It is an unacceptable social more for an underage girl to be married without her parents' permission. They are not even allowing her to meet her parents. "

Nazia Sardar, executive director of the Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (AWAM) stressed "the increasing ratio of forced conversion of minor minority girls that always concluded on marriages demonstrate that the state authorities are failed to act as per the aspirations of the religious minorities. The law enforcers’ partial attitude in Saneha’s abduction, which later revealed as the forced religious conversion and marriage as exposed that the state authorities are negating the ground realities. The AWAM calls upon the lawmakers to accept the fact and urge them to notice such practices and encourage them to introduce laws and policies to influence the high ratio of forced conversions of minority girls ".

AWAM is calling on the international community and human rights defenders to extend their support by writing to the government of Pakistan to take the following measures: Establish a committee under the supervision of a senior police officer to investigate the facts relating to the case, taking into account the age factor of the girl and the Supreme Court ruling of June 19, 2014 encouraging lawmakers to take measures to change the trend of converting underage girls. In addition to this, the commission must consider that all cases of conversions are associated with girls (usually minors) and subsequently concluded with marriage.

The National Human Rights Commission (NCHR), the National Commission on Minorities and the National Commission on the Status of Women, must be mandated to intervene in the situation and act according to their mandate to ensure justice.

The abductee must have psychosocial counselling to be aware and be able to express herself without any pressure or fear. The police authority must present the abductee before the magistrate to ascertain her free will and the parents must be allowed to meet their daughter.

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